Children’s Literature

Nine-year-old Margru loved her green homeland in Mendeland, West Africa. But when crops failed and starvation came to her family, she was pawned to work for a local man, where slave traders spotted her. Since her father could not afford to buy her back, Margru was sold as a slave and taken to the coast. By 1839 the slave trade had been banned in England, so these slaves were packed into a ship, sent to Spanish Cuba, and put aboard a coastal schooner, La Amistad, bound for another Cuban city. On the way, the slaves rebelled and took control of the ship, causing a sensation as they sailed along the east coast of the United States. When Edinger, who served in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, learned that children were aboard Amistad, she began her research, planning to write a nonfiction work. Though she found many accounts of the trial that followed Amistad’s capture by an American ship, Edinger decided to focus on Margru, telling her poignant story as fiction. Using information from letters, engravings, and newspaper articles, she succeeds admirably. Byrd’s exquisite watercolor-and-ink illustrations bring characters vividly to life as the slaves are taken ashore in Connecticut, await trial, and try to adapt to a strange foreign land. Pictures showing contrast between the slaves’ simple dress and the elaborate costumes of 1839 America are especially beguiling. Two lovely maps help readers locate events, while other illustrations follow the trial and Margru’s further life and education in America. Best of all, for young readers captivated by her story, are Margru’s dreams of Africa and eventual return to her beautiful green homeland. Impressively researched, designed, and produced (even to the Caslon Antique typeface), Margru’s story has become a collaborative work of art.

From the subscription service, Children’s Literature: Reviewer: Barbara L. Talcroft

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